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Lard: The New Butter

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© Steven McCarthy
Lard's for sale at Prather Ranch Meat Co.

Last month, one of the top 25 search phrases on foodandwine.com, along with (Top Chef contestant) "Richard Blais" and "appetizers," was "lard." Animal fats have gilded restaurant menus for the better part of the last decade, but the interest in using them at home seems to have migrated from the rarefied air of the New York Times Op Ed page to the rest of us. In September Ten Speed will release an awesome-looking book on the subject by Toronto-based Australian food writer Jennifer McLagan. And just last week Steve McCarthy of the Prather Ranch Meat Company in San Francisco's Ferry Building was telling me how strong the response has been to their new leaf lard, rendered from the kidney fat of their heritage Range Brothers pork: it's flying off their shelves. Granted, this is San Francisco, but McCarthy insisted the most surprising part of the success is how few food geeks are a part of it. "Our lard customers are way more mainstream than the guys who come in here looking for belly to make their own bacon, I'm telling you," McCarthy said. So what accounts for its wider popularity? "I think it's just skipped a generation," McCarthy said. "People remember the biscuits and other foods their grandparents used to make with it, and don't want to use the margerine and vegetable shortening their parents used."

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